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Thursday, 12 July, 2001, 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
Exiles plan for post-Castro Cuba
 Cuban exiles demonstrate on Miami streets
Miami Cubans dream of returning to the island
By Lilian Zac in Miami

It may have been a fainting episode under the hot summer sun in Havana for the Cuban President Fidel Castro, but for many people in the Cuban-American community in Florida it marked the beginning of the end of Mr Castro's control of the island.

Where the Bay of Pigs, the CIA, and the trade embargo have failed, maybe nature will succeed

As their hopes of Mr Castro's downfall by popular revolt fade away, the leaders of the Cuban exiles place their hopes on the failing health of the Cuban leader.

The image - repeated again and again in the Miami media - of Mr Castro passing out in front of a huge crowd raised the hopes of the Cuban exiles.

Where the Bay of Pigs, the CIA, and the trade embargo have failed, maybe nature will succeed.

Meetings were scheduled in frenzied anticipation to review the old plans on how to tackle the public and political situation in the event of Mr Castro's death.

President Castro moments before fainting
The Cuban leader feeling the heat
The short-term plans by the Miami authorities and the Cuban-American leaders aim to manage the anticipated celebrations and avoid unrest.

Immigration is another issue that worries authorities and exiles alike.

On the one hand, many in the Unites States fear a massive exodus from the Caribbean island towards the Florida coast.

Americans have fresh memories of the Mariel boatlift in 1980, when Mr Castro allowed thousands of people to leave the island.

On the other hand, many exiles believe that after Mr Castro is gone, they will automatically be able to return to Cuba - and hope they will be able to renew acquaintances with relatives and reclaim property they left behind after the revolution.

The US Coast Guard is expected to try to stop the flow of boats in both directions - and if necessary request help from the US Navy.

Cubans escaping island on raft
There are fears of a mass exodus
The Immigration and Naturalisation Service is likely to move promptly to enforce immigration laws, allowing some people to enter the US but also deporting many others.

Cuban-Americans are hoping to be able to influence the post-Castro transition - even though it is as yet unclear what kind of regime will follow.

They plan to revitalise their contacts with people on the island and send food supplies if the situation deteriorates drastically in Cuba.

One of the suggestions is to provide rice and beans in boxes labelled with political messages.

The Cuban-American community is probably the most powerful Hispanic community in the United States, even though it is not the largest.

It has been unified by its opposition to Mr Castro and his regime. Many observers say that after the initial celebrations, the death of the Cuban president could trigger internal feuds and a rift with Washington.

For the moment, though, any talk of future divisions is hushed, as the Cuban exiles hold their breath, waiting for Mr Castro to breathe his last.

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See also:

07 Jul 01 | Americas
Castro comes back after collapse
14 Mar 01 | Americas
Powell takes tough line on Castro
28 Oct 00 | Americas
US eases Cuba embargo
19 Oct 00 | Americas
Castro: The great survivor
11 Oct 00 | Europe
The Nobel Peace Prize
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